As GOP members of Congress work to revive their effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, metro-east members of the Illinois congressional delegation remain on board.
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, said he is supporting the continued efforts to repeal and replace the landmark legislation, also known as Obamacare.
“We want people to be able to afford the individual market. Obamacare, especially the individual market is collapsing and failing. People are forced to buy something they can’t use because the deductible is too high, or their coverage limits are so high, they can’t access those,” Shimkus said after attending Monday’s 19th annual Congressional Prayer Breakfast in Collinsville.
GOP leadership in the U.S. House has been working to revise the American Health Care Act and gather enough ‘yes’ votes before bringing it to the floor for a vote.
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The ACHA was pulled in March after it became clear the GOP would not have enough support among the Republican majority.
We want people to be able to afford the individual market. Obamacare, especially the individual market is collapsing and failing. People are forced to buy something they can’t use because the deductible is too high, or their coverage limits are so high, they can’t access those.
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville
Shimkus was a supporter of the AHCA before it was pulled in March.
Shimkus said he disagreed with assessments that millions of people would lose their insurance through the GOP health plan, including 57,200 people in his 15th district, according to a report issued by Democrat U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin’s office.
“We want to have a thriving individual market in which that people can afford to be able to purchase their insurance,” Shimkus said. “I discount the fear-mongering the senator is doing, the whole idea is to get an affordable accessible market.”
During an event last month in the metro-east, Durbin said he wants to repair the ACA, not repeal it.
Shimkus said the AHCA would give states more power.
“If they want to change some of the requirements, to do so, and really we’re in this cooperative federalism,” Shimkus said. “Instead of the national government dictating policy to the states, we’re allowing the states, who are the engineers and have the experience of dealing with their own constituents the power to do that. Really it’s empowering states to make more decisions and how they want the coverage to be rolled out.”
According to reports, there are amendments being discussed that would allow states to opt out of federal requirements.
While the bill says people with pre-existing conditions will have “access,” it does not address affordability. The legislation would let states opt out of the requirement for standard premiums, under certain conditions. If a state maintains protections such as a high-risk pool, it can allow insurers to use health status as a factor in setting premiums for people who have had a break in coverage and are trying to get a new individual policy.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, who was part of the AHCA negotiations in March and has been part of a group of legislators meeting regularly to discuss the effort, said exemptions already existed under the ACA.
“There’s a waiver process. States are the ones who regulate health care insurance coverage,” Davis said. “It’s not a nationwide regulated product. So states, if they meet a very high standard of requirements including having a plan to cover pre-existing conditions, they have to make sure they’re going to offer lower prices, they have to make sure they’re offering more accessible coverage.”
He cited when Vice President Mike Pence put in accountability measures in the Medicaid system while governor of Indiana.
“States, when they have innovative ideas, can petition the federal government now, and will be able to then implement those plans if they’re good ideas and good plans,” Davis said. “But rest assured, those always are going to have to have a plan in place to cover pre-existing conditions. It’s just not true what people are saying.”
The fact that we’re still talking about it, is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing because people are sitting down, trying to make the bill better. This newest version is better, because there is no exception for pre-existing conditions and the federal essential health benefits that exist today under the current law, will exist under the new law too.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville
Davis also laid blame on U.S. House Democrats for not participating in the process.
“The real untold story in this whole debate is how the Democrats have done nothing to fix a broken system that many of them helped create,” Davis said. “That still left 29 million Americans without health care coverage, and 31 million more Americans with health coverage they can’t afford to use.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, has said he would have voted in favor of the AHCA if it had been brought to the floor for a vote in March, and said it was just a part of a three-pronged approach of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.
George O’Connor, a spokesman for Bost’s office said the congressman has yet to decide how he would vote if the revised bill came to a vote now.
“He’s still waiting to see exactly how the final version will affect Southern Illinois,” O’Connor said. “We’re definitely taking a hard look at it.”
“It’s a moving target,” O’Connor added. “We don’t know what the final version is going to be.”
He’s still waiting to see exactly how the final version will affect Southern Illinois. We’re definitely taking a hard look at it.
George O’Connor, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro
There had been a provision to exempt Congress and its staff from provisions of the bill, but additional legislation is being pushed as well to ensure no exemptions exist for elected representatives.
“That’ll be fixed. That was written in to comply with some Senate rules to make sure it’s just a budget vote,” said U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-New Jersey, who authored the amendment, told the Hill.
Davis said he wouldn’t make a prediction on when a vote could happen.
“The fact that we’re still talking about it, is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing because people are sitting down, trying to make the bill better. This newest version is better, because there is no exception for pre-existing conditions and the federal essential health benefits that exist today under the current law, will exist under the new law too,” Davis said. “To me the changes, the deliberation made it a little better than what it was before. There are other ideas that I hope come out that can make it even better and in the end be more supported.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.